Ruined Summary

Ruined is a Pulitzer Prize–winning play by Lynn Nottage that takes place in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • Sophie and Salima, women who have survived being raped by soldiers, are brought by Christian, a traveling salesman, to work at Mama Nadi's bar and brothel.
  • Sophie, Salima, and Josephine, another of Mama's employees, entertain customers who include soldiers from both sides of the civil war.
  • Salima dies when Commander Osembenga raids the bar in search of a rebel leader, Kisembe.
  • Mama confesses to Christian that, like Sophie, she is "ruined" (has been mutilated by repeated rapes); the two tenderly dance together.


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Last Reviewed on February 10, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1446

Act 1

Mama Nadi, who owns a bar and brothel in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, discusses an order with Christian, a traveling salesman. Christian brings in two young women, Salima and Sophie, for Mama to purchase as employees. Mama insists that she only wishes to purchase one woman, but Christian convinces her to take both when he gives her chocolate and tells her about their backgrounds. Salima has been rescued from rebel soldiers who raped her repeatedly for five months; Sophie has also been raped and has suffered mutilation to her genitals, becoming “ruined.” Sympathetic to her pain, Mama gives Sophie chocolate and alcohol.

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A month later, Sophie sings to entertain the rebel soldiers at the bar. After one drunken soldier tries to purchase her with a piece of ore he took from a miner, Sophie is unnerved. Mama intervenes, accepting the ore as payment for Salima. She shows Mr. Harari, a diamond merchant, the raw diamond she keeps in a lockbox; he confirms that the gem is valuable. Mama tells Mr. Harari the story of how her father was tricked by a white man into losing his farm: the man had a piece of paper stating that he owned the farm and that her family had to leave.

In the women’s living quarters, Salima angrily complains about a soldier who bragged about killing miners and worries that one of the miners could have been her brother. She misses her family but cannot return home; her village cast her out after she was raped. She especially misses her baby, Beatrice. Salima compares Sophie to a bird who could fly away if she chose and tells her she is fortunate that she does not have to sleep with the customers. Sophie explains that although she sings beautifully for the patrons, she is always in pain.

Salima reveals she is pregnant, a secret she does not want Mama to know. Sophie shows her money she has been secretly saving, promising to take Salima with her to Bunia when she has saved enough.

Josephine enters and accuses Salima of stealing her food and her fashion magazine, mocking her for not knowing how to read. Salima becomes angry when Josephine insults her family. When Sophie defends Salima, Josephine lashes out by reminding her that they live in a brothel and mocks her as worthless because so many men have used her. Josephine angrily describes her own rape by soldiers; no one helped her even though her father was the village chief. She sneers that if she is not special, neither is Sophie.

Later, Christian reports the disappearance of Pastor Robbins, a white missionary who is rumored to have been helping rebel soldiers. Christian is concerned about the growing tension between the rebels and government soldiers over controlling the mining area and tries unsuccessfully to convince Mama to leave with him.

Commander Osembenga, a government military leader, strides into the bar, and Mama wins him over by standing up to him. Osembenga warns her that Kisembe, the rebel leader, is dangerous and that they shouldn’t serve him. Osembenga claims he wants democracy for the people, while Kisembe only wants to use them for his own profit. Meanwhile, Mama sees Sophie hide money in her shirt.

Christian catches the commander’s...

(The entire section contains 1446 words.)

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